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A look back at 5 famous Serie A imports by Rangers

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A look back at 5 famous Serie A imports to Ibrox

The Scottish Premiership has turned into somewhat of a one-horse race over the past eight years, with Celtic stamping their authority over arch-rivals Rangers and establishing themselves as the undisputed powerhouses on the domestic front. 

As for the Rangers fans, they should be happy that the club is finally on its way towards shrugging off the financial difficulties which had tarnished its glorious image and resulted in a demotion to the fourth tier of Scottish football eight years back. 

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To be honest, the fact that the Gers are yet to bag any major silverware since their return to the top-flight three years ago continues to be a bitter pill for all the club’s supporters to swallow.

That, however, might change next season or in the near future, with Rangers once again showing a lot of ambition to get back to winning ways under current manager Steven Gerrard.

Since his appointment in April 2018, Gerrard has taken significant strides towards helping Rangers revive their lost glory.

With the club’s financial condition still not back to its best, the Liverpool legend has been forced to use his acumen to strengthen his ranks, with some shrewd acquisitions in the transfers market.

The fans at Ibrox have every reason to hope that the Gers can transform the promise that they showed last season into something more meaningful next term and finally oust Celtic from the throne. 

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It’s easier said than done but Rangers have made a strong statement of intent with as many as eight new signings this summer, with Bologna’s Swedish international centre-back Filip Helander being the most expensive of the lot.

The £3.5million fee paid for Helander is nowhere close to the club-record amount that the Gers had shelled out to sign Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo from Chelsea around the turn of the century but it is the highest that they have spent on a single player since returning to the top-flight following the liquidation.

With that in mind, let us take a look at 5 of the most famous Serie A imports to have graced Ibrox, and some of the inclusions in the list are bound to take the fans of the current generation by surprise.

1. Paul Gascoigne (Lazio)

A key component of the England sides that reached the semi-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup and the 1996 European Championship, Paul Gascoigne is widely acclaimed as a legendary figure in English football and his inclusion at the top of the list should hardly come as a surprise to the fans. 

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Gascoigne established himself as an influential playmaker in English football with Newcastle United and Spurs before moving to Serie A outfit Lazio in 1992 and after three fruitful seasons in Italy, the mercurial star joined Rangers in 1995.

Gascoigne netted 19 goals in 42 appearances in his debut season at Ibrox to help the Gers claim their eighth successive domestic title and replicated those numbers by scoring 17 in the following campaign as the Glasgow giants made it nine in a row over Celtic.

The playmaker sparked serious controversy for his infamous goal celebration of playing the flute in an Old Firm derby at Celtic Park in January 1998 and a tumultuous sequence of events saw him get sold to Middlesbrough in March.

Nevertheless, Gascoigne won four major honours during his time at Ibrox, including back-to-back league titles. 

2. Andrei Kanchelskis (Fiorentina)

The Russian winger won back-to-back Premier League titles, the FA Cup and the League Cup during his glorious years at Man United and followed it up with an impressive spell at Everton before moving on to join Fiorentina in 1997.

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Kanchelskis’ spell in the Italian top-flight proved to be an ill-fated one and he returned to Britain just after a single season, this time to Rangers in 1998.

The skilfull winger didn’t really manage to hit the same heights that had made him one of the most decorated players at Old Trafford earlier in his career but he still got the fans off their feet with moments of individual brilliance. 

The Russian was a key part of the side that completed a back-to-back league and Scottish Cup double in 1998-99 and 1999-00. He further went on to bag the Scottish League Cup and Scottish Cup double in the 2000-01 season before being shipped out on loan to Man City following a string of ordinary performances.

3. Gennaro Gattuso (Perugia)

Gattuso began his career with Italian side Perugia but he was transferred to Scottish giants Rangers in July 1997 at the age of 19, with Walter Smith being the man responsible for introducing the midfield maestro to Scottish football.

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The Italian played regularly for one season at Rangers but he lost his place in the team following the departure of Walter Smith, with new manager Dick Advocaat playing him in an unfamiliar right-back role.

Gattuso was eventually sold to Italian club Salernitana, where he impressed with his performances before earning a move to Milan. 

4. Lorenzo Amoruso (Fiorentina)

The Italian centre-back was one of the most decorated figures at Ibrox during the late 90s and the early 2000s and he probably deserves to be at the top of this list in terms of the number of trophies won at Ibrox. 

Amoruso played for Bari, Pescara and Fiorentina in his homeland before making his move to Rangers in 1997. However, his start to life at Ibrox wasn’t particularly smooth, as he missed large quarters of his debut season due to an Achilles Tendon injury. 

Despite that, however, Amoruso was appointed as the club captain by manager Dick Advocaat in the following campaign and he eventually found his way into the hearts of the fans with some stellar displays at the back, guiding the Gers to a domestic treble in the 1998-99 season. 

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The centre-back came under scrutiny at times for his tactical errors in the subsequent campaigns but he continued to be a key player for Rangers despite being stripped off the club’s captaincy.

Amoruso’s career at Ibrox had a happy ending though, as the Italian rediscovered his mojo under new manager Alex McLeish and played a key role in the Gers’ domestic treble-winning campaign in the 2002-03 season.

The centre-back netted the winner for Rangers in the 2003 Scottish Cup final against Dundee in what proved to be his final game for the club.

5. Marco Negri (Perugia)

Marco Negri arrived at Ibrox in 1997 as a bonafide goalscorer with a proven pedigree, having topped the scoring charts at Perugia in the Serie A in the 1996-97 campaign.

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The Italian soon became a popular figure at Rangers and plundered goals for fun in his debut season, although his tally of 33 league goals in the 1997-98 campaign wasn’t enough to propel Rangers to the domestic title.

Negri showed little exuberance while celebrating goals and became famous for his subdued and silent celebrations.

However, an eye injury he suffered while playing squash followed by several other recurrent injuries put an end to his short blitz at Ibrox.

Arsenal

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Predicted XI and more

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Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Prediction and more

Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday with both teams hoping to extend their 100% domestic record with the third win of their Premier League season.

The Reds thrashed Norwich 4-1 in the Premier League curtain-raiser before edging past Southampton 2-1 on Saturday. Sandwiched in between was their UEFA Super Cup triumph against Chelsea in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Gunners have also enjoyed a perfect start to their season, thanks to wins over Newcastle and Burnley, but the trip to Merseyside will represent their first acid test of the new season.

Arsenal’s recent visits to Anfield have been embarrassing, to say the least. Liverpool have scored 22 goals out of 30 in some staggering victories against the north London club in recent times. So, Unai Emery has a mighty task of changing the scenario at the weekend.

Team News

For Liverpool, Alisson Becker has a suspected grade two tear and is not expected to be fit for the Arsenal game. Naby Keita has a muscle problem and will miss Saturday’s game, while Nathaniel Clyne is a long-term casualty.

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is continuing his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, although he won’t be available anytime soon. New signing Kieran Tierney remains unavailable due to a groin problem but Rob Holding has participated in full training with the first-team squad.

Granit Xhaka could return after missing the Burnley win while Mesut Ozil was absent due to illness and is back in full training now.

Predicted XIs

Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Georginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac; Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.

Tactical Prediction

Jurgen Klopp should go with his usual 4-3-3 formation on Saturday. Adrian will continue to deputise in goal, with Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk and Robertson forming the back-four.

Having Fabinho as the shield in front of the back-four, the likes of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain should get the free license to join the attacks often and cause problems to the Arsenal defence.

Liverpool’s high press is very difficult to contain and the onus will be on Chamberlain to help drive the attack from the midfield.

The Reds are powered by their front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah. They are slowly starting to hit form but given their fantastic record at Anfield against Arsenal, Klopp will expect his fiery front three to deliver the goods.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, could revert to a back-three system on Saturday. It is a system in which many of the Arsenal central defenders feel comfortable.

David Luiz is the best ball-playing defender of the lot and he will be accompanied by Sokratis and Monreal at the back, with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac as wing-backs.

The Gunners will look to use the width while hitting Liverpool on the counter as full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are defensively suspect and provide a lot of space behind them due to their natural attacking mindset.

Guendouzi has started the season encouragingly and should be partnered in the midfield by Xhaka, and Ceballos, who royally impressed with his performance against Burnley. It’ll be vital for Arsenal’s midfield to nullify the threat of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain while in transition.

As record-signing Pepe is still being eased in, Emery is expected to go with the two-pronged attack of Aubameyang and Lacazette. Liverpool have been shaky at the back so far in the new season, which could present Lacazette and Aubameyang with some chances to pounce on.

Predicted Result

It’ll be a wild contest in front of the ever-boisterous Anfield crowd. Expect Liverpool to dominate possession, press very hard, force mistakes and pounce on it.

Also, expect their backline to make a couple of errors and get punished by Arsenal’s attack. Nevertheless, the game should end in favour of the Reds.

Prediction: Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal

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Arsenal? Manchester United? – Which of the big clubs will achieve a top-4 finish in the PL this season?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?

The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.

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Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.

Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.

Chelsea

Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.

After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.

The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.

Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.

Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.

Tottenham

Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.

However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.

Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.

Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.

Arsenal

There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.

Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.

But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.

David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.

Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.

Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.

Manchester United

Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.

United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.

The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.

Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.

Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.

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Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season? Can Norwich and Aston Villa beat the drop?

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PL prediction: Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season?

Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa are the three newly-promoted teams that have come into the Premier League this season.

Only once in Premier League history have all three promoted teams dropped straight back down, and that was back in 1997-98.

Furthermore, there have been three instances when all three promoted teams have survived, most recently in 2017-18, when Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town all retained their Premier League status.

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All the three promoted teams this season – Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, have had contrasting starts to the campaign so far. That being said, let’s take a look at who will finish where in the table.

1. Norwich City – 12th

Daniel Farke’s Norwich City took the Championship by storm and confirmed their promotion fairly early.

During the summer transfer window, the Canaries made some interesting signings in Sam Byram, Patrick Roberts, Josip Drmic and Ralf Fahrmann. Clearly, Farke relies on those players who served the club well last season.

Norwich’s opener against Liverpool turned out to be a heavy defeat for the visitors as they lost 4-1 at Anfield. It could have been worse than that but thanks to goalkeeper Tim Krul, as he made a couple of outstanding saves.

But Farke’s side have shown great character to come back from the disheartening opening day defeat at Anfield. They defeated Newcastle United 3-1 at Carrow Road in their first home game of the season, with last season’s star Teemu Pukki scoring a fabulous hat-trick.

If Farke can be flexible with his tactics and get Pukki firing every weekend, the Canaries can certainly enjoy a respectable mid-table finish.

2. Sheffield United – 16th

After conceding the joint-fewest goals and keeping the most number of clean sheets in the Championship last season, Sheffield United are the most impressive defensive unit among the promoted sides.

The Blades have returned to the top-flight for the first time since 2007 and the plans have been laid down in order to stay at the top for a long period of time.

Having snapped up experienced defender Phil Jagielka on a free transfer following his release from Everton, Chris Wilder focused on bolstering his attack in the transfer window, with the likes of Lys Mousset, Oliver McBurnie, Callum Robinson and Luke Freeman arriving at Bramall Lane.

And to everyone’s surprise, they have enjoyed a really promising start to the Premier League campaign, picking up four points from the first two games. Wilder’s men drew 1-1 with Bournemouth before beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at home at the weekend.

If Sheffield United can make the Bramall Lane a fortress, chances of them beating the drop would become higher.

3. Aston Villa – 17th

Aston Villa beat Derby County in the playoff finals at Wembley to become the third promoted side this season.

Upon their return to the top-flight since the rock-bottom finish in 2016, they were one of the biggest spenders in the summer window as Dean Smith signed as many as 13 players.

The Villans released a number of experienced stars including Alan Hutton, Micah Richards and Glenn Whelan in order to reduce the squad’s age and pump in some fresh, young talents.

Despite reinforcing the backline, Aston Villa have conceded five goals in the first two games. There is a lot to improve for Smith’s side, who are yet to open their account in the points table.

Villa’s massive summer spending is risky and reminds us of Fulham’s approach last season after their promotion. The plan backfired and the Cottagers now find themselves back in the Championship.

Certainly, it won’t be a similar case as far as Villa are concerned, with Smith being a smart tactician. He also has assistant coach John Terry to somehow help the club in difficult situations. It’ll be a close shave, nevertheless!

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